The U.S. military has the Trump administration’s go-ahead to use lethal force along the border with Mexico — but this is a power that the defense secretary said he has no plans on using.
The permission is contained in a memo, obtained by CBS News, that authorizes border troops to “perform those military protective activities that the secretary of defense determines are reasonably necessary to ensure the protection of federal personnel, including a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly signed the memo.
Coverage of the U.S.-Mexico border on Globalnews.ca:
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday that he has, indeed, been given the authority to use lethal force at the border when necessary, NBC Washington reported.
He also has the power to detain migrants amid chaotic situations and when the physical safety of border patrollers has been placed at risk.
But Mattis said he would only use these powers following a request by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She has thus far made no such request.
“I now have the authority to do more. Now we’ll see what she asks me for,” Mattis said, adding whatever the military does will be within legal limits.
The new authority comes as the U.S. military has stationed approximately 5,900 troops along the Mexican border at an estimated cost of $210 million — an expense that could grow if the operation extends beyond Dec. 15.
The troops are acting in support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) forces, and they’ve also come alongside 2,100 troops with the National Guard who have carried out a mission along the border for months.
The cost of the National Guard mission has been pegged at $138 million.
Military forces have been stationed at the border as hundreds of people from a migrant caravan have made their way toward the U.S.
Hundreds arrived in Tijuana last week, and were greeted by Border Patrol agents watching them from behind a border wall in San Diego.
Mattis has said that the military deployment along the border is good training for war.
- With files from The Associated Press